The BRAD BLOG is run by Brad Friedman, an "Investigative Blogger" (according to the bio at the Huffington Post).
The claim is half-true. Friedman tries to investigate things, right enough, but it's hard to find an area where he has investigated well. Admittedly, I have not read his blog exhaustively, but my survey paints a dreary picture of Friedman's abilities.
The first problem with Friedman's investigative ability manifested itself when I examined his commentary on the California secretary of state race, where the two major party candidates are incumbent Republican Bruce McPherson and challenging Democrat Debra Bowen.
Friedman had plenty of criticism for McPherson, but he did a curiously sloppy job of backing up his criticisms ... using what might be called "House of Cards" documentation.
Friedman's blog post punctuated McPherson's statements with Friedman's replies.
MCP: I implemented the most stringent security testing procedures ever.
Really, McP? Not as stringent as your predecessor Kevin Shelley who had the decency to decertify the same Diebold machines you are now allowing the state to use, when he discovered they had lied and installed uncertified systems. You, on the other hand, simply certified them even though they are known to be among the most unsecure voting systems made. Oh, and you also have a guy who actually works for Diebold drafting documents for your office on your stationery.
Okay, we'll need to go slowly here, step by step.
First, it turns out that the quotation is utterly inaccurate, or is at least presented in the wrong order (I'll confirm this later).
Second, note that Friedman skips out on documenting his claims against McPherson. He just makes various assertions that the reader is expected to take as true.
Friedman admits that the quotation of McPherson may be imprecise, but suggests that they are "damned near."
But here's what McPherson actually said in his opening statement:
"I implemented the toughest voting systems in the nation, of any voting system."
The first claim Friedman makes is that Kevin Shelley's security testing procedures were more stringent than those of McPherson, but having reviewed what McPherson actually said, it is apparent that Friedman is implying that Shelley's requirements for electronic voting machines were more stringent than those of McPherson.
Shelley certainly pushed for a paper trail, but McPherson certainly calls for the same thing. The specifics of Shelley's requirements are tough to find, since most of the links to the Secretary of State's website, which no longer exhibits the Shelley plan.
We have no evidence of stricter standards from Shelley, but we do have McPherson's mock election resulting in decertification of Diebold machines.
Shelley's parallel move came after the machines in question were installed for use without certification under Shelley's nose (though apparently due to deceptive practices at Diebold).
The instance concerning McPherson looks better in terms of implementing standards.
MCP: I created the strictest standards in the nation before I would certify any of [the voting systems]. I also added security measures before they were used in an election.Again, Brad flubs the quotation. Here is what McPherson said: "I created the strictest standards in the nation before I would certify any of them. I also added some security measures in addition to that."
Really, McP? Then why did you completely ignore those security measures in the very first election after you implemented them?
It's fair for Brad to editorially substitute "[the voting systems]" for "them," of course, but the latter portion of the quotation might as well be made-up.
Brad hotlinks through "completely ignore" to reach this page, which appears to emphasize storage security problems uncovered by (ta-daaaa!) Brad himself, and based on a local official's statement admitting that storage in a car could not be considered "secure."
Now if only Brad had bothered to place that information squarely in the context of McPherson's security measures, we'd have a reasonable piece of evidence instead of a worthless wild goose chase into an apparent house of cards.
MCP: The system in the Princeton Report [which showed Diebold touch-screen systems can be hacked with a vote-flipping virus in 60 seconds] was the Diebold TS, not the Diebold TSx as we use here in California.Again, Brad's supposed quotation of McPherson is wildly off the mark; it is fair as a paraphrase, however, since McPherson did make the above distinction (since Bowen failed to make the distinction).
Really, McP? Did you know the Princeton scientists also said the same vulnerabilities likely exist on the TSx? Want to dare us to prove that to you? (HINT: We don't have to. Your own team of scientists at UC Berkley already told you…you do know that, of course, right?)
The report by the UC Berkeley scientists did not reference the Princeton examination at all, from what I can tell.
In any case, it seems strange to me that an "investigative blogger" would challenge the other guy to prove him wrong instead of providing the results of his investigative blogging in order to definitively settle the issue.
MCP: I did convene a team of scientists to look at these systems, and they said 'they are safe and accurate.
'"Really, McP? Let's see what they really said. From their report [PDF]:
Harri Hursti's attack does work: Mr. Hursti's attack on the AV-OS is definitely real. He was indeed able to change the election results by doing nothing more than modifying the contents of a memory card. He needed no passwords, no cryptographic keys, and no access to any other part of the voting system, including the GEMS election management server.
However, there is another category of more serious vulnerabilities we discovered that go well beyond what Mr. Hursti demonstrated, and yet require no more access to the voting system than he had. These vulnerabilities are consequences of bugs–16 in all
…And then you went ahead and certified the Diebold systems anyway.
First, a small point: There doesn't seem to be any justification for supposing that McPherson was quoting the report. Brad's presentation suggests otherwise.
Taking McPherson's statement as a paraphrase, he seems to be right. The UC Berkeley team found the source code acceptably secure for use in elections if some simple security measures were implemented. From the report summary (page 1):
We found a number of security vulnerabilities, detailed below. Although the vulnerabilities are serious, they are all easily fixable. Moreover, until the bugs are fixed, the risks can be mitigated through appropriate use procedures.And none of that warranted mention by our intrepid "investigative blogger"?
That's because he's better described as a partisan hack.
MCP: I've overseen two successful elections and no one has been disenfranchised in either of those elections.Really, McP? What about those voters who were turned away in Kern County during the primary election in June because the Diebold voting machines didn't actually work at all?
1) McPherson can't know that "no one has been disenfranchised" in the elections he has run. Brad gets a point on that one, since the newspaper story he referenced provides reasonable prima facie evidence of probable voter disenfranchisement (albeit on an apparently minor scale).
2) Brad still flubs up, however. The voters who were turned away weren't disenfranchised by the failure of the Diebold machines so much as the failure to stock an adequate number of paper ballots as a failsafe. It's not certain that any of them were ultimately disenfranchised, however. The story simply said that it was virtually impossible for them to cast their ballots.
The "investigative blogger" ends up doing what he seems to do best: misrepresenting the facts.
I knew that Friedman's blog belonged here when I delved into his story titled
"EXCLUSIVE: FIRST BUSH-APPOINTED CHAIR OF U.S. ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSION SAYS 'NO STANDARDS' FOR E-VOTING DEVICES, SYSTEM 'RIPE FOR STEALING ELECTIONS'!
On the "no standards" quotation, Friedman is accurate enough. That appears to be what Rev. DeForest Sories intended to say.
It's not clear that Sories reported accurately, however.
In early 1984, this three-year effort produced Voting System Standards: A Report on the Feasibility of Developing Voluntary Standards for Voting Equipment.On the other hand, Friedman employed trashy tabloid techniques with the other quotation. The quotation is accurate, but lifted out of context. Friedman manipulates Sories' comment in the title to make him appear to say that American elections are ripe for stealing, but the context shows that Sories referred to the same types of machines in other nations, presumably where election workers do less to preserve the accuracy of the process than we have in the U.S.
Based on the recommendations in that report, Congress appropriated funds permitting the Commission to begin developing voluntary national standards for computer-based voting systems. The FEC began the process in July 1984, and completed it with the Commission’s approval in January 1990 of the first national performance and test standards for punchcard, marksense, and direct recording electronic voting systems. More than 130 State and local election officials, independent technical experts, vendors, Congressional staff, and others participated in the effort to produce this document. The FEC spent $285,000 on four contracts over the course of this effort.
(About.com: History of Voting Machines)
Friedman includes the full quotation in the article subsequent to the misleading headline, by the way. I take that as indicative of poor reasoning ability on Friedman's part rather than a desire to mislead others. If he were out to mislead, he'd have been much better off omitting the full quotation.
Here is the quotation with the expanded context:
And as long as an elected official is an elected official, then whatever machine was used, whatever device was used to elect him or her, seems to be adequate. But there’s an erosion of voting rights implicit in our inability to trust the technology that we use and if we were another country being analyzed by America, we would conclude that this country is ripe for stealing elections and for fraud.Realistically, any election system devised thus far is ripe for fraud. The latter portion of Sories' comment seems to lack any meaningful content minus the context that precedes it. Sories emphasizes the existing political culture, which is dominated by elected officials, provided we can trust the polls at all.
(Sories, quoted at theBRADBLOG)
Those tabloid-style headers--in particular the inaccuracy--help cinch Brad's Blog its place here at Bad Blogs' Blood.